Art and Humanity

In Never Let Me Go, art serves as the symbol for “true” humanity and as a mechanism to inspire and persuade the masses. Throughout the novel, readers are gradually shown how art is considered crucial to the development of humans, particularly for love. For example, Tommy says, “She told Roy that things like pictures, poetry, all that kind of stuff, she said they revealed what you were like inside. She said they revealed your sou.” (130). Tommy hypothesizes that art serves as proof for authorities that the love between two people is real. Tommy here reveals a fundamental theme of the novel; creativity and the ability to imagine and create is what ultimately characterizes humans as themselves, and art serves as a mechanism of displaying this creativity.

Readers can see this concept particularly in the evolution of Tommy’s drawing. He moves from drawing out childish elephants to saying, “If you make them tiny, and you have to because the pages are only about this big, then everything changes. It’s like they come to life by themselves.” (187). Tommy has the idea that drawing things smaller is what makes them “come to life,” a phenomenon showing his ability to think on the next level. Rather than drawing on the most basic dimension, Tommy now expresses his desire to Kathy to create material that was previously unknown. Here, we see Tommy thinking for himself and trying to express himself originally. It’s not simply the ability to create, but rather the ability to imagine that differentiates him from others at Hailsham.

Image result for love art

In fact, the ability to create is what can particularly inspire and move the masses. Miss Emily explains, “That was why we collected your art. We selected the best of it and put on special exhibitions…’There, look!’ we could say. ‘Look at this art! How dare you claim these children are anything less than fully human?’” (230). Evident in this statement is the idea that even the simple concept of art entails a special ability to create, and this ability, according to Miss Emily, is what characterizes people as human. The fact that Hailsham students were engaging in art was enough to convince others that they were human.

However, Tommy’s art shows us the dichotomy in Miss Emily and Hailsham’s version of art and his idea. Hailsham simply uses the “idea” of art and this ability to create as a propaganda measure for proving “humanness.” What Tommy does instead—try to imagine and create and see art as a metaphor for love—is far more representative of humanness than the idea that Miss Emily and Hailsham propagandize. Thus, art in the novel serves as the line dividing “real” humanness from the fake one and shows readers how the ability to imagine, not simply draw, is what characterizes humans as themselves.

Little Acts of Vengeance

“Then I find I’m not ashamed at all. I enjoy the power; power of a dog bone, passive but there. I hope they get hard at the sight of us and have to rub themselves against the painted barriers, surreptitiously. They will suffer, later, at night, in their regimented beds. They have no outlets now except themselves, and that’s a sacrilege. There are no more magazines, no more films, no more substitutes; only me and my shadow, walking away from the two men, who stand at attention, stiffly, by a roadblock, watching our retreating shapes.” (40)

In this passage, the anger and resentment that lies beneath the surface in Offred is brought to the forefront, as she engages in what would be considered scandalous behavior and justifies it. Offred’s candid diction and angered tone help readers understand the resentment she feels toward her situation, which seem to foreshadow a larger rebellion taking place within her.

Image result for handmaid's tale

Offred begins by saying “I’m not ashamed at all,” showing her blatant lack of remorse at flirting with the guards who are similarly a product of the society they live in and are in charge of opening the gates to the place she considers hell. What is surprising is Offred acknowledges her “power” in this situation, which she normally lacks in this society, where she only possesses a “freedom from” but not a “freedom to.” Normally not being in control of her life seems to have enabled her to recognize the situations in which she does have some power, especially concerning people socially ranked below her, such as the guards. Thus, it is interesting that she says, “I enjoy the power” and uses the metaphor of a dog bone to describe the way in which she reels in the guards by their sexual desires.

As readers, we get a sense of Offred’s anger and resentment toward her situation as she describes her desire of watching the guards suffer. She says, “They have no outlet now besides themselves, which is a sacrilege.” Offred recognizes not only the power she holds, but she chooses to use this power to make those around her suffer. This latter part is the one in which we as readers are enlightened to her absolute hatred and loath towards her situation and her desire to take vengeance in the smallest way possible, even if it is by engaging the sexual desires of those she is forbidden to interact with. Offred’s tone thus points to her rebellious nature and seems to shadow an uprising she may lead later on in the novel. This seems to become evident in her reference to herself as a “retreating shape,” or one that is gone for now but will come back later to strike.

Image result for handmaid's tale

Psychiatry, Drug Abuse, and Culture

The Psychiatry Bulletin provides readers a glimpse of the perspectives on mental health, as a result of biological and cultural factors, in the latter half of the twentieth century. From the diverse array of topics ranging from child thumbsucking to schizophrenia, Emily, Erica, and I chose to hone in on drug addiction, abuse, and treatment.

Image result for psychiatry bulletin

We will be constructing a brochure informing readers of the cases, perspectives, and treatment of drug abuse in the 1960’s. The goal of the brochure is to delineate the culture of drug abuse in the 1960’s, the causes of addiction, cultural views, physicians’ comments and treatment plans and compare these factors to the ones surrounding drug culture today. To accompany this brochure, we will also be creating a short one to two minute video to illustrate drug culture from the late 1900’s.

This brochure is targeted mainly to researchers, for example, medical humanists who would like to further investigate the intersections of biology and culture from the past to predict trends and aid the progression of treatments in the present. One of the Psychiatry Bulletin’s most interesting facets is its ability to not delve too deeply into the use of technical jargon and instead cater to a wide range of readers by discussing more of the impact of cultural factors on biology. This aspect is what makes the brochure and video most helpful for researchers who want to investigate the impact of culture on drug abuse and the impact of drug abuse on physiology. A study of these factors from the past can aid researchers in working on areas that can be targeted for treatment, that show specific trends, and that prevent harmful incidences of the past from recurring. The brochure and video essentially aim to show the intersections of culture and biology in the context of drug abuse.

My team members and I will need to dig into the articles of the Psychiatry Bulletin to fully understand the material presented. To receive more information, we may even need to visit the references from the journal. We will also need to look through scholarly sources (online and in Fondren) to unearth the culture of drug abuse today in a sense that can be compared to that of the culture in the 1960’s. This research will better aid us in presenting a comprehensive brochure and video most helpful for medical humanists interested in the intersection of biology and culture in the context of drug abuse.

Total War, Total Epidemic

A nation’s leader usually makes decisions from a utilitarian viewpoint, or a perspective that would bring about the most salient effects for the largest number of people. This utilitarian view can be seen in the Redeker Plan, which chose to salvage as many as possible by sacrificing the others. Using this same line of thinking, I would have voted to go on the offensive in the Honolulu Conference, as it would be saving the lives of as many civilians as possible and sacrificing those who fought. Going on the offensive would also build morale, which had been severely devastated, in several nations. As one fighter says “the voices woke me up; everyone jawing, laughing, telling stories.”  (282). One of the most crucial survival instincts is the belief that one can survive, but with the severe devastation of morale, the thought of survival had not crossed the minds of many, and was purely categorized into “fight or flight,” as one survivor put it.

Image result for zombie war

http://wallpaperfolder.com/wallpapers/zombie+war

Even with going on the offensive, however, “every second of life cannot be devoted to victory.” (272). Total war had never been an idea before the zombie apocalypse because no country could devote all its time and resources to fighting. However, this idea of “two sides trying to push the other past its limit of endurance” which normally defines human warfare, was particularly apt for the zombie war, which could be defined as a total war because there were “no limits.” (273). The sides were constantly changing and never fixed, with one side being able to morph into the other. Because there was no way of negotiating or coming to the terms with zombies, the war was unbounded and consumed all resources and capabilities. The fact that the war was of such great capacity reinforces why it would have been best to go on the offensive in the Honolulu Conference. A war establishes that there are two sides, and that one is clearly against the other. However, by using an epidemic as a metaphor for total war, we see that the one side is completely ravaging the other. We saw this SARS and Ebola in The Hot Zone. The goal when fighting an epidemic is survival, which is the case here. The goal when fighting a war, is to win, which does not always constitute survival. Therefore, an epidemic could serve as a metaphor for the zombie war, but only if it is categorized as a total war and not just a war in which two sides are opposed to each other.

Phalanx & Politics

“Oh, c’mon. Can you ever “solve” poverty? Can you ever “solve crime? Can you ever “solve” disease, unemployment, war, or any other societal herpes? Hell no. All you can hope for is to make them manageable enough to allow people to get on with their lives. That’s not cynicism, that’s maturity. You can’t stop the rain. All you can do is just build a roof that you hope won’t leak, or at least won’t leak on the people who are gonna vote for you.” (Brooks, 61)

In this passage, Grover Carlson, a fuel collector in Texas and former White House Chief of Staff, discusses Phalanx, the placebo that was introduced to calm the hysteria of the masses in response to “African rabies.” When the interviewer mentions that the problem wasn’t actually solved, Carlson responds with the above passage.

Image result for placebo pill

Carlson’s colloquialisms in phrases such as, “Oh, c’mon”; “gonna”; “Hell no.” point to his casual tone and dismissive attitude. He seems to be both self-confident and pompous, evident in his asking of questions and responding to them by himself. Carlson asks if poverty, crime, disease, unemployment, or war can be solved. The repetition of the word “solve” emphasizes its true meaning of being able to completely repair an issue. Because of this repetition, the reader immediately understands that the societal issues being mentioned are too complex to be fully repaired. Issues such as poverty and unemployment and disease are dependent on a number of factors, and Carlson seems to imply that “African rabies” is as well. The phrase “societal herpes” provides a vivid image, since it associates societal issues with an infection that is often uncontrolled and cannot be immediately suppressed.

Carlson suggests that the containment of “African rabies” and the hysteria associated with it is crucial to its possibility of being “managed.” He states that it cannot be “solved” but only “managed.” What Carlson seems to suggest is that the appearance of the disease is what must be managed, if not the disease itself, because the latter cannot be “solved.”

African rabies here serves as a comprehensive metaphor for societal issues that are often perpetuated because the root causes are not targeted. One example would be the cycle of poverty in the US. Impoverished areas often lack enough funding for schooling and healthcare which affects the entrance of low-income individuals into the job market. The cycle of poverty perpetuates because the basic resources required to maximize one’s capability are essentially limited by the political system. Similarly, “African rabies” is not actually solved but simply covered up through Phalanx. Thus, through Carlson’s words, Max Brooks seems to be making larger statement about the political institutions in the US.

Image result for cycle of poverty

Carlson calls accepting this prejudiced system “maturity” and invokes the vivid metaphor of building a roof and hoping it won’t leak or at least leak on the voting base. Phalanx serves as the roof that is being built to reduce the leaking, or the public hysteria, and the voting base comprises those who truly matter in society. This passage is significant because it seems to represent the opinion of an authority figure who shows no remorse for injecting a placebo into the market, and in fact, states that the disease cannot be solved, and so it must be hoped that the public does not discover the truth. Brooks seems to use this passage to make a candid statement about the corruption, secrecy, and disparities of the US political system.

Sources:

Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Broadway Books, 2006.

Images:

http://studentlabor.org/poverty-cycle/

http://blogs.plos.org/mindthebrain/2013/06/25/is-psychotherapy-for-depression-any-better-than-a-sugar-pil/

Journey into an Ancient Dimension

The bus pulled up to what seemed to be a desolate parking lot, and looking around, I remember thinking, “Oh, of course. This is it.” A California native, I was still adjusting to the “empty zones” of Texas – the space between buildings and streets into which one could gaze for a moment and not be disturbed by the nuances of city life, as in the Bay Area. The Historical Center seemed to be located in one of these “empty zones,” and so I indifferently followed my peers through a glass door, having similar expectations for the inside.

I soon discovered these expectations had been extraordinarily low. Laid on a table surrounded by endless stacks of journals and volumes were instruments, texts, and visuals from another era of medicine. The anatomy-loving, intricacy-seeking geek within me jumped to life. I picked up the “amputation devices” of past centuries and reveled in their rusty glow. The idea of touching an object from another time and place was exciting beyond measure. The instrument in my hand, I realized, was a representation of how far science had come. Doctors no longer believed in mysticism, bled out their patients, and used saws as amputation devices in the twenty-first century. Just like our bodies, we had evolved. Science had evolved. And the documents on this table in this archive center were a testament to that evolution.

Image result for ancient medical instruments

The texts and collections in the archive center were not just a static collection of irrelevant facts. They were a part of ongoing studies of issues still relevant today. Looking through the Psychiatry Bulletin, words such as “psychosis,” “anorexia,” and “retardation” caught my attention because of their prominence today. I realized the Bulletin was a reflection of the norms, stereotypes, and views of another era, so not only was I learning facts by glancing through the documents, I was also learning history. And by conducting research on these topics and connecting it with issues today, I was becoming a part of the history and the quest of furthering knowledge that extended through time and space.

Image result for archive

I walked away from the archive excited to begin my research on The Psychiatry Bulletin and explore the opinions of another era and in awe of the mystery, discovery, and dynamism characteristic of the McGovern Historical Center.

Public Health?

Most individuals would regard “good health” as a blessing because they are aware that without good health, they would not be able to function and carry out their day-to-day lives. Thus, policymakers, healthcare officials, and community leaders prioritize discussions and decisions about public health, or the collective well-being of a community.

Public health is a comprehensive topic because of the multitude of areas that could improve or damage the well-being of a community. For example, residents of third-world countries living in the most extreme forms of poverty are likely to have poor health. Poverty has shown to lead to issues like a shortage of healthcare facilities and personnel, lack of sanitation, and malnourishment. Each of these factors has the potential to impair the health of a nation’s residents and create a cycle over generations in which, the public health of that community, is threatened. Thus, the agendas and policies decision-makers create regarding the economics, infrastructure, and healthcare of their nation affect the living conditions and essentially the health of their communities.

Public health also relies on the decisions made collectively by a community. For example, genocide and other forms of war, decided upon and enacted by one group with the intention of harming another, pose implications for the public health of the community. In war-torn areas, people often lack access to essentials like clothing, food, and water, and as their lifestyle begins to deteriorate, so does their health. War weapons can also create new health issues like lead poisoning and acid burns. In some areas, certain groups have cultural views that objectively damage their health. For example, the stigma against women with fistulas in Africa and the practices of genital mutilation and breast-ironing all pose a threat to the lives of those respective populations.

Lastly, public health can also be impacted by non-human factors such as natural disasters and epidemics. Droughts, floods, and earthquakes often create conditions that prevent populations from accessing basic resources. Epidemics such as Ebola and Zika also take the lives of thousands and challenge scientists and decision-makers to create solutions that would stunt the spread of these illnesses. The decisions created at a local and global scale that affect the well-being of populations experiencing similar conditions are thus integral to maintaining public health.